Garden centres and other retailers have yet to reach "peak houseplant" after phenomenal growth over the past year. Formerly a moribund area of the garden centre, Instagram and smaller gardens have led to a trend for indoor decor that has included dozens of guidebooks and some centres doubling sales year-on-year.
Indoor Garden Design director Ian Drummond says there is still growth to be had for retailers but only if they display the product more creatively. His recent RHS Chelsea Flower Show display was sponsored by Ikea, which says it is the "most popular retailer of houseplants in Britain". The Chelsea feature included the possibilities of using houseplants differently, including hanging them over a bed in the Discovery Zone display.
"Next year is year of the houseplant," says Drummond. "Ikea has a new range in August and has completely changed and expanded the houseplant range and retailers like Urban Outfitters are selling them. In the next 12 months there will be a lot more interior style companies and interior design shops selling them. If you asked me three years ago I'd have said it was impossible to buy houseplants but that has completely turned around.
"Garden centres are improving but definitely could improve their merchandising. They have gardens outside showing how to use outdoor plants in different styles but inside they just have them on tables. At Chelsea we have a bedroom with hanging houseplants and a display like that would sell a lot more."
Catering for nature indoors
Ikea UK and Ireland sales leader Lisa Bradshaw says: "With trends in urbanisation and small space living, not everyone has access to an outdoor space and that's why we're encouraging people to grow their own plants at home. Nature indoors can provide a sense of calmness, tranquillity and improve well-being too. There's a desire for people to live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle by growing and eating their own produce, which is why we have introduced the VAXER Hydroponics range, allowing people to grow their own herbs and vegetables indoors."
Hillview Group chief executive Boyd Douglas Davies says: "We re-introduced houseplants into the business in the last year. They're in stores all year round now, not just for Mother's Day and Christmas. From a low base we've seen growth year-on-year and now we're into our second proper year we're buying £25,000's worth a month at cost.
"It's growing rapidly and it's not just orchids. There's good business in 4ft foliage and house decor plants. We thought it was all about orchids, which it is for a gift. People are also self-purchasing to put plants back into the house. To a degree we display on tables but we use height and wooden crates. We're working with Scheurich pot covers to bring link sales.
"It's not easy to source them. We go to the clock auction ourselves so we work at it. It's not just availability online and placing an order. We go every three weeks."
Douglas-Davies says having deliveries every three weeks refreshes stock while not putting on so much pressure so his 11 centres have to change over every week. He suggests that Ikea sells huge amounts of three or four houseplants as pick-up lines but people are also looking for "more interesting things" such as kokedama. "People say that's cool rather than old macrame hangers."
He adds: "Cactus was one that featured in John Lewis's 2017 annual trends report and we are also selling Venus flytraps in Kilner jars, which stops the kids jabbing fingers in and takes the product from a few quid to a £10 gift line."
The Chelsea exhibit, which won a silver medal, featured a living room, bedroom and bathroom. The plants included Malabar chestnut (Pachira aquatic), mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria), Hedera helix, peace lily (Spathiphyllum), cacti, weeping fig tree (Ficus benjamina), aloe vera, yucca, maiden hair vine (Muehlenbeckia complexa), Chinese banyan tree (Ficus microcarpa), bromeliads, moth orchid (Phalaenopsis), lavender, vanda orchid, Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis cassutha), Senecio, spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), radiator plant (Peperomia rotundifolia), grey artillery plant (Pilea glaucophylla) and creeping sedum.